Jordan and Palestine: The Zombie Lives!

Maybe there could be a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation: stranger things have happened in the Middle East.

Marc Lynch accurately dismisses John Bolton’s ridiculous proposal for the “Three-State Solution” (i.e. Egypt takes over Gaza and Jordan takes over the West Bank) as a “zombie idea”. One has to wonder Bolton’s strange power to alienate everyone in the world except for the op-ed page editors of major American newspapers: two sub-zero stupid op-eds in one week.

But here’s a funny thing: it’s quite possible that in a few decades, Jordan and the West Bank will become a unified state. Here’s why I think so.

1) Jordan’s Queen, the fabulous Rania, is a Palestinian; she was born in Jenin. (Update: Must. Have. Coffee. Rania was born in Kuwait, to Palestinian parents from Tulkarm. The point still applies, but we all have to work from the same facts, of course.)

2) That means that the heir to the Hashemite throne, Prince Hussein, is, in some sense, a Palestinian. (Readers with familiarity about how lineages in Jordanian/Palestinian culture are traced and acknowledged are invited to write in and explain how this might work, or whether I am operating from a wrong assumption: in Judaism of course, you become Jewish through your mother, although before the Common Era it was just the opposite).

3) So when Hussein becomes King Hussein II, he can legitimately claim to be King of Jordan but also a Palestinian.

4) Meanwhile, over in the West Bank, it’s pretty obvious that even if (as I hope) the occupation ends and the Palestinian state gets 100% of the territories (subject to agreed-upon 1-to-1 border modifications), and Gaza, that’s not really a state: that’s a statelet.

5) Moreover, something close to 2/3 of the Jordanian population is Palestinian, and some Palestinians have held Cabinet positions in Jordan. Unlike every other Arab ruler, Jordan King Abdullah I (great-grandfather of the current king) welcomed Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and gave them Jordanian citizenship. (In light of this, why the Hashemites are often seen as betrayers of the Palestinian cause is an exercise left to the reader.)

6) A smart Palestinian Prime Minister would probably, then, encourage peaceful agitation in Jordan for greater democracy — which, if there is an Israeli-Palestinian deal, will be more difficult to suppress. I could see many on both sides of the Jordan as pushing for greater economic integration in any event: integration with Israel will also occur, but many Palestinians might be wary of such an arrangement because they will necessarily be disadvantaged in such a scenario.

7) And if the Palestinian Prime Minister is really smart, it might behoove him and King Hussein II to become more integrated politically as well. The PM would give the Hashemite throne more political legitimacy, and the addition of Jordan would turn the Palestinian state into a real state with reall territory. Maybe the PM would be the Prime Minister of both countries.

8) So then you’d get something like a Jordanian-Palestinian confederated kingdom, which could be a sort of constitutional monarchy with more extensive royal executive powers.

This, of course, is a far cry from what Bolton is talking about. It depends upon a real final status agreement with Israel, and — importantly — it also depends upon other Arab state and Iran failing in what will be their attempts to interfere with such an arrangement. And they will attempt to interfere with it. Arab mistrust of the Hashemites has been high, at least historically: Abdullah I, the “Falcon in a Canary’s Cage,” was consistently blocked by other leaders in his amibitions. But still, it could happen.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.